What is Docusate Sodium?

Bobbie Fredericks
Bobbie Fredericks
A bulb syringe, which can be used with docusate sodium.
A bulb syringe, which can be used with docusate sodium.

Docusate sodium is a stool softener. It is available in several types of oral preparations, as well as in suppositories and in enemas, and it is probably the most widely used stool softener. There are many forms available over-the-counter, but a prescription strength is also available.

The oral forms of docusate sodium available are pills, a liquid suspension, and drops. All oral forms must be taken with a full glass of water, or as instructed by a health care provider. Adequate water consumption is important while taking this medication. If use is desired during pregnancy or breast feeding, a health care provider should be consulted.

Docusate sodium may be used to treat constipation.
Docusate sodium may be used to treat constipation.

Stool softeners are a form of laxative, and are the gentlest on the bowels. They work by increasing the amount of water in the stool, and do not irritate the intestinal lining. While typically used to prevent constipation, they are sometimes used to treat occasional constipation.

When taken orally, docusate sodium is effective within one to three days. Taken rectally, it is effective within five to twenty minutes. If a bowel movement has not been produced within the time frame stated on the packaging, a health care provider should be consulted.

Docusate sodium can be taken in both oral or suppository forms to soften stool.
Docusate sodium can be taken in both oral or suppository forms to soften stool.

Side effects are usually mild and include diarrhea, cramping, gas, and irritation of the throat if the liquid form is used. Symptoms of overdose include severe diarrhea and stomach pain. If overdose is suspected, a health care provider or Poison Control should be contacted immediately.

There are several instances in which docusate sodium should not be taken. Patients with nausea, rectal bleeding, vomiting, intestinal blockage, unexplained abdominal pain, or who are allergic to any of the ingredients should not use it. In addition, patients with hemorrhoids and those under twelve years of age should not use the enema version.

Abdominal pain is a common side effect of docusate sodium.
Abdominal pain is a common side effect of docusate sodium.

Docusate sodium should not be taken with mineral oil. Some mineral oil may be absorbed by the body if taken with docusate sodium. This can lead to mineral oil toxicity, or overdose. Symptoms of overdose include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and dehydration.

Especially when used in conjunction with a bulb syringe, docusate sodium has been shown to be an effective treatment for the build-up of earwax. An excessive amount of earwax may cause hearing difficulties and even vertigo. Other complications of earwax buildup include tinnitus, pain, and infection. Earwax removal should only be attempted by a health care provider. Patients should never insert docusate sodium into their own ear canals.

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    • A bulb syringe, which can be used with docusate sodium.
      A bulb syringe, which can be used with docusate sodium.
    • Docusate sodium may be used to treat constipation.
      Docusate sodium may be used to treat constipation.
    • Docusate sodium can be taken in both oral or suppository forms to soften stool.
      Docusate sodium can be taken in both oral or suppository forms to soften stool.
    • Abdominal pain is a common side effect of docusate sodium.
      Abdominal pain is a common side effect of docusate sodium.
    • Docusate sodium should not be taken with mineral oil.
      Docusate sodium should not be taken with mineral oil.